It is difficult to identify skirmishes out in the countryside particularly during 1861, since there was less documentation of all the shooting scrapes that year compared to better records made and kept the following years of the war in Missouri.
That being said, I have a good idea what events could have lead to California's forlorn appearance about October 8, 1861. My theory is that California was vandalized by vengeful Union troops possibly as a result of the two train shootings by local Missouri State Guard (MSG) members near Centertown or Lookout Station on the Moniteau/Cole County line in August 1861.
The first about August 12 involved just a couple of local southern men and one of their shots mortally wounded a conductor named Whipple from Jeff City who was on the train. For the identity of the ambushers, you may ask our mutual acquaintance, Elwood.
The second train shooting on August 20 was on a grander scale. A number of the local MSG may have heard that Union home guards from central Missouri (specifically: Warrensburg, Tipton, and California) were ordered to report to Jefferson City and were packed aboard the eastbound train that day. Some were even riding on top of the cars. At the same location as on August 12 the hidden local southern men "let fly" and hit a number of the Home Guards, at least one mortally. The shaken Home Guards returned fire and the southerners retired, except for three whose horses bolted. The northerners captured and shot those three to death. I did not learn their names. If you know, please let me know.
Further, Major Emory S. Foster and one squadron of his home guardsmen from Warrensburg rode their horses to Jeff City via the wagon road beside the Pacific Railroad tracks, presumably because of lack of space on the train for all those horses. Remember, that in 1861 the railroad terminus was in Tipton. In a 1920 article by George Grover in the "Missouri Historical Review" Grover quoted Foster as saying that when his squadron reached the same vicinity near Centertown they had "a sharp fight" and "routed a large band of guerrillas, killing ten of them." Foster did not specify the date of this fight, and, of course, his body count of the MSG is probably an exaggeration. If Foster arrived in Tipton with the rest of his troops who rode the train on August 20 his mounted men could have reached Centertown late that day or the next.
Now, for the revenge part. There was a brand new brigadier general named U.S. Grant at Jefferson City at that time, and when the shot-up train pulled into town Grant took action to stop that nonsense to the west. He sent the same guardsmen who endured the earlier ambush to the Centertown area to teach southerners there a lesson. The enraged guardsmen needed no encouragement, over the next several days torched homes and other buildings along the railroad for some distance, and weren't in the mood to be tolerant. If the California home guardsmen went along, they probably guided the others to "the usual suspects." I read in the 1980 Moniteau County history that a local family always wondered why their house was burned during the war. I seem to recall their name is Rice. If they are still around, you may wish to clear up that mystery for them. How far this arson extended I do not know, but according to Grant's reports in the "O.R." those busy home guardsmen were gone on this errand several days.
Sources for all that above include:
--"From California, MO,""Daily Missouri Democrat," St. Louis, 31 January 1862;
--"From the Pacific Railroad," "Daily Missouri Democrat," St. Louis, 13 August 1861;
--"O.R." series 1, vol. 3, pp. 140, 452, 454, 461; series 2, vol. 1, pp. 216-7
--Capt. George S. Grover, "Civil War in Missouri," "MHR", vol. 8, October 1913, pp. 19-20;
--George S. Grover, "Major Emory S. Foster," "MHR" vol. 15, April-July 1920, p. 426;
--James E. Ford, "A History of Jefferson City," Jeff City: publ. by author, 1938, pp. 134-136, quoting Jeff City "Examiner" of Saturday, 17 August 1861;
--James E. Ford, "A History of Moniteau County, Missouri," California, MO: publ by Marvin H. Crawford, 1936, p. 42;
--Carolyn M. Bartels, "The Forgotten Men: Missouri State Guard," Shawnee Mission, Kansas: Two Trails Publ., 1995, pp. 204-5 (charges against an Andrew Kinney for the 2nd train shooting);
--a reprint of a 1930s article that mentions this in the "Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal" 17 August 1976;
--bare mentions of Grant in Jeff City during August 1861 in volume 1 of his memoirs. Rest assured Grant left out the arson part.
Bear in mind also that the editor of the "California Weekly News" was twice jailed in 1861 and 1862 for secessionist articles, which may have been enough to send Union troops on a rampage in California. My source for this are editorials later by the editor C. P. Anderson telling his readers that he had now realized the error of his ways. His paper was then published throughout the rest of the war, and remaining copies on microfilm are good records of central Missouri war events.